Archive of ‘Blog’ category

Be a big business, build yourself a call me back button – for free!

You have seen that button at the site of your bank or your insurance company. The button that saves you the hassle of dialing the number. The button that gives you easy access to their personnel instead of having to wait ‘in line’. The button that you would love to have for your small business. A button that allows your clients to get in touch with you by a single click. Up until recently those buttons were quite expensive. But times have changed and I will show you how to get one for free.

*Warning: This blogpost does assume you have a basic knowledge of websites, plugins and forms*

Ok, that said, how do you get that button? Your first step is to get yourself an IFTTT account. If This Then That is one of the easiest ways to build simple actions based on triggers that you set. The first step is easy. Join them. Fill out your credentials and click “Create account”. Done. That is your first step.

The second thing you need is a website. Obviously you have one of those. And your website needs the possibility to publish forms and send them off to a unique email address with a unique subject line.
On your website, build a form that people need to fill out to get called back. Unlike the instant call back from your bank, it might take a message up to 15 minutes to reach you. That means that it would be a great idea to add a field on when someone would like to be called back. In the example you see, mine says you can be called back within an hour and a half, you can be called back during office hours or that evening after 8pm. Other than that I ask people to leave their name and number. Only the phone number is a required field in this example as that is the only information I really, really need to make that call. Think carefully about what you need from your customers. The more you ask, the fewer will use the option.

To make the build as easy as possible, I will assume you have a Gmail account. If you don’t, you might want to make one just for this purpose. You don’t have to look at it ever again as it will only store an email that will be used as a trigger. But it is important to have one so we can use it as a trigger later on.

Have your form sent to your (new) Gmail address and use a unique subject line. Remember that subject line, because we will be using it a little later on. Content wise, make sure that the email you receive holds the fields you have asked to fill out. Mine tells me that “Name” wants to be called at “time set” on “phone number”. A decent smartphone will even make the phone number clickable for you to respond quickly.

Now that you have your form set up and sending emails (test it first). You can go and log on to your IFTTT account. Once logged in, you will see the dashboard. You can add loads of channels to IFTTT for you to use both as triggers as well as output channels. Click channels in the top right corner and you get the overview of all the channels that are available. Find the Gmail icon and click that. Google will ask you whether you want to grant IFTTT access to your email address. Grant access and the Gmail icon will now be all colorful on the site. Then you click the SMS button. Type your international phone number with all the extra’s. Mine should be written as 00653961138 for instance. Then have the system send you a pin code. Once you have received the SMS with the pin, type the pin in the field and you are connected.

Now everything is set to create your unique task with IFTTT. Click create task on the dashboard. Then click the highlighted “this”. The screen will now show all the channels that are available to you. Click the Gmail channel. You are now asked to set your specific trigger. I have built mine around a search for the unique subject line that I added to the email my form sends. Then click complete trigger.

With the trigger set, we need to define an action that IFTTT has to do when triggered. We need to have IFTTT send an SMS to our number. So, click the highlighted “that”. As a channel choose the SMS channel. You then receive a single option. Send me a text message. And that is exactly the one that we need. Click it and you get a new screen. Here you can set the message that is sent to you. On the right you will see a dark balloon. Click it to get extra options that you can add to your SMS. In my case I had cleaned up the form email so much that I just wanted the Email Body Plain to show in my text message. That gives me the name and phone number of the person I need to call and the time I need to call them at. Click complete action and you are done.

You can now name your new IFTTT task. And hey presto, you have just built yourself a form on your site that notifies you via SMS for free.

If you feel this might be too complicated for you, I can build one for you. (In Dutch as well.) Or you can use my IFTTT recipe.

Be on Facebook and six quick tips

If you have read my previous post on Facebook, you might be inclined to think that I would advice any company against being on Facebook. But that is not the case. In fact, I strongly believe you need to be on Facebook.

In my previous Facebook post, I used analytical data from several sources to determine that only 0.4% of your Facebook fans actually visit your Facebook page and that only 0.02% of your Facebook fans visits one of the tabs you put on your Facebook page. However, there is a much more important reason to be on Facebook and even to gather likes on Facebook.

People spend a a great deal of their time on Facebook. They come there to share with their friends. To talk. To hang out. Basically, they are not spending time with Facebook, they are spending time with their friends. That is the reason why commerce on Facebook failed, but also why branding works.

“It was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.” That was the feeling why large retailers closed their shops on Facebook. And that is a great analogy. As Facebook is very similar to hanging out at the bar. People share stories, jokes, have fun, play games, exchange thoughts. People are there together. Nobody walks into a bar to buy a suit and neither will someone go to Facebook to do the same.

However, they do talk to the sales manager of their favorite store at the bar. They will exchange stories, ask questions and point others to him. And that conversation is usually what will get them back in the store the next day. That is the power of Facebook. Building that relationship.

Six things to do on Facebook?

  • Be personal
    Not just a company account. Build your presence based on your people and gather them to be the pillars of your Facebook page.
  • Be personal
    Talk to your visitors and your fans. Be genuinely interested in who they are, what they care about and what you can do for them. Not to push a product, but to build a relationship.
  • Be inquisitive
    There is a reason why people like you. There is a reason why they like your page. Find out why. NEVER assume you know! Rule of thumb, if you have not asked and they have not answered, you do not know.
  • Be relevant

    Once you have found out why people like you, you can be relevant to them. You can share with them what they care about. There is a fair chance that they are not interested in you pushing your products. Keep that in mind. But the only way to find out, is to ask!
  • Be sharable
    If you are relevant, you can become sharable. That is the point where you communicate such good content to your fans, that they actually want their friends to know about it.
  • Be available
    The key to it all. You have to be available. People need to be able to talk to you and get an answer. Not just your biggest customers, but everyone. Because it is like that bar scene. If you only talk to your biggest client, none of the others in the bar feel pulled towards you. Even though you might be offering something they want. If they feel ignored, they will ignore you.

I’m loving it, are you?

People that know me, know that I am often all over the map. When they think I am going right, I do a quick left and then swerve to the right. Why? Because I love it. Because I am inspired. Well, often anyway. I just love creating big new ideas that might or might not become reality. But I always go for my passions all out. The results? The results are like the email I got the other day from the bus driver on StartupBus Europe. He used to be an entrepreneur in video but the economic situation put him on the bus. StartupBus Europe inspired him to take a new approach and get back to his passion. Those are the emails I love. And that, and other reactions to the impact StartupBus Europe has had on people, are the reasons why I do what I do.

I love people. Yes, that would include you. 😉 And that is why I do what I do. Because I want to share my knowledge, share my thoughts, share my ideas to help you move forward. And I will not be confined to a single space like social media or tech. I promise you that I will go beyond that. My head is full of new ideas and one that I would love to launch in particular. It will take some time before I can share more about that, but it will be something that combines a lot of the things I am passionate about.

And you? Are you inspired? Are you doing what you love? This valentine, consider what your biggest loves are in your life and make sure you embrace them. Whether it is your partner or your passion.

Disappointed in Windows Phone so far. Send me your tips! (Nokia Lumia test)

Last Friday afternoon I got my Nokia Lumia 800 in. First impressions were of a great looking phone with a solid feel to it. The packaging was nice as well, so it all built up pretty nicely. After getting myself a micro sim, the test period was on. I had set myself the challenge to really use it as my only phone over the coming weeks, to see how it would stack up to the iPhone and my Nexus S. Due to something missing on my Lumia, Nokia is going to exchange my phone for another one. Nothing to alarming, but to be honest, I loved the sound of my Nexus S turning on again.

I have written about Windows Phone before. But I had never tried to live with it. And that changed over the course of these last three days. I installed lots of apps, I made calls, took pictures, did video, texted and used social networking sites. Just like I do on my other phones. But it did feel different this time. Let me get this clear. I really do love the feel of the phone. I love the pictures it takes. I like how it integrates things into its user interface. And I definitely, definitely love the looks that Microsoft has given Windows Phone. The tiles are nice and mostly functional. Even though I don’t understand why some are animated and some aren’t.

But in a way, the phone leaves me feeling oddly detached. I am used to the notifications on Android 4.0 and iOS 5. Notifications that tell me when people want to interact with me across all networks. Yes, there is the “Me” tile that I can tap and then go to notifications to see Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live and LinkedIn, but that needs action from me. And as soon as I power up my Nexus S or iPhone, I get flooded with updates that I never saw on the Lumia. And that annoys me. My phone is not about calling. It is about interaction.

And about making a call. That is a completely different problem. When logged on to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Windows Live and four of my Google accounts, the address book becomes a total nightmare. Lots of people are in several of my networks, which puts them in my address book several times. But not all of them have phone numbers. So, I keep on choosing the wrong contact. And trying to call home, I didn’t even find the number. I am sure there are great ways of streamlining this. I do that on the Nexus S and iPhone as well. But I have not found out how to do it on this one.

I think Nokia made a nice phone, but I am not enjoying it because Windows Phone doesn’t work the way I would want it to. And I might be able to solve a lot of this by choosing the right apps. So, tell me, what are the apps you enjoy most on Windows Phone and why? And how did you sort out your address book? Looking forward to hearing from you so I can give the Lumia a second chance!

Google integrates Google+ in search results and drives competitors nuts

Yesterday, Google announced that they will now make Google+ much more of a search companion than it was. Google will introduce a “personalized search” button you can click to see who of your friends have posted messages that align with your search. To be honest, I had expected things like this to happen from day one. I even blogged about how I expected Google to integrate Google+ into everything they do. And surprise, surprise. They did.

The funny part comes next. Now a lot of people are yelling about antitrust laws and how it is unfair to use your monopoly on search to promote your social network. Which is interesting in itself. I am not saying that they are not doing that. I am just looking at the people making that statement and that surprises me. One of the biggest complainers is Twitter. You know, the company who tried to use their monopoly in microblogging to promote their search capabilities. Apparently, after a period of working closely together, they then pulled Google’s rights to use the tweets of their users in Google’s search results. Only to come back to Google to offer them the rights to use the search at a figure “below $100 million”. Imagine their surprise that Google denied it and turned around to do it themselves. In an official statement sent to a number of news outlets, Twitter even speaks of Twitter as the world’s primary source of breaking news. And Google’s new search results will harm information reaching users. (Read the full statement on TechCrunch for instance.) I would almost call that a “We’re better!” attempt. In an interview with Marketingland Eric Schmidt says that they are not favoring Google+ and that they are willing to talk to Twitter and Facebook.

Honestly, unlike Twitter, I do see benefits for people searching. I believe integrating social networks into search can be a step forwards towards offering better search results. But it will be important for Google to get Twitter, Facebook and others to join their social search attempt. Because even though I do like Google+, I cannot and will not see it as my only source of social search results.

Entrepreneurs don’t care about the current economic climate

Yesterday I visited one of the many New Year receptions of our region. It was hosted by the local chamber of commerce and this meant that the chairman did his annual New Year’s speech. Unfortunately he forgot who he was addressing. His speech was full of the terrible economic climate, the changes we all need to make to not go bankrupt and how the chambers of commerce are going to be reorganized to help entrepreneurs do that. He forgot that he was addressing entrepreneurs. I bet his speech would have gone down welll with governmental types. But not enterpreneurs.

Walking around during the reception part, every single entrepreneur I talked to told me that they are expecting a nice 2012. They all saw new possibilities for their companies or their products. Some of them are hiring for that growth already. Unanimously they thought the speech was crap.

When I headed back home last night, I was happy to see that none of the outside factors influenced the real entrepreneurs. They are not bothered with what the outside world says, they see an opportunity and they move on it. And those will be the entrepreneurs that will make it. The ones with vision for their future, passion for their company and a drive to succeed.

Are you influenced by the news on the economic climate? Or are you seeing new opportunities for you and your company?

Clean up the permissions you have given others

Oh, I will quickly log in with my Facebook account. Wait, I don’t have to register here, I can just use Twitter. Or LinkedIn. Or any of my other social networks. Throughout the day, you are giving lots of services permission to use your social network accounts. It may be for authentication at first, but you will almost always be granting more permissions than the service really needs. And over time, you forget which services were granted what.

Time for mypermissions.org. An easy service that shows a couple of big logo’s from the major social networks. Clicking them will take you to the permission pages for your network account on that network. An easy way to check who you have been granting permissions on what. And believe me, even if you are not that active, that usually still is a surprising list.

Have you tried it already? Has it surprised you?

A marketing campaign will not make Windows Phone succeed

At the end of March, Nokia will launch their new Nokia Ace in the US. And rumor has it that the launch will be accompanied by a great marketing campaign that will run in the neighborhood of $100 million. I just read this on BetaNews. An interesting article that goes on to state that Microsoft needs a hero in the Windows Phone stakes. However, the statement leaves me wondering what their campaign will be on.

I am a firm believer that people want to buy a mobile device that is easy to use and gives them the features they want, for the price they want it at. Almost every day I have people ask me what phone they should buy and how their phone can help them do what they want. And unanimously they ask whether to buy Android or iPhone. I never get asked the question for Windows Phone. Nobody asks me the same about Blackberry either, because you either want one for Blackberry messenger or you are stuck with one as your company phone.

Will a $100 million marketing campaign solve this problem? Hardly. Few people choose their phones on the commercials they have seen or the billboards they drove past. They do choose their phones on what their friends are using and the ease it seems to give them. I agree with Robert Scoble when he responds to Charlie Kindle’s post on why WP7 has not taken off. Through its users, Android and iOS both show they are safe choices. People around you use them. Of all the people I have met over the past three weeks, I have only met one with a Nokia Lumia. One. Hardly a match for the people that have told me about their new iPhone 4S or Android phone.

I am afraid the $100 million might just vaporize on the way to selling a phone. Back in 2007 the launch of the iPhone changed the mobile phone landscape. Back in 2009, carriers were still longing for a good iPhone competitor to offer their customers. Now, in 2012 we have it all. Back in 2007, developers were eager to jump the bandwagon to build their coolest ideas into iOS apps. Now, few startups even see Windows Phone or Blackberry as a viable market. So they develop for iOS and Android only.
I am assuming Microsoft is launching a ‘regular’ marketing campaign with Nokia and AT&T in which they will be targeting consumers to buy the Nokia Ace. What happens is that we get into a circle of people waiting for each other and no phones being sold. Because the consumers will only change to Windows Phone when their favorite apps are running on WP and developers will not be eager to do WP development unless WP reaches enough critical mass to make it worth their while.

Solution? Take a good chunk of that budget and target developers, startups and innovators. To port their existing apps to WP, but also to develop cool new apps that will be exclusive to WP for now. I firmly believe there is a market for WP. However, you need to know where it is to be able to benefit from it. For now, WP phones will mainly be bought by companies to replace their older Windows Mobile devices. A device management issue. But startups can make the most of this by launching themselves specifically geared to business development. There is enough to do in that market still and there is money to sell your apps. And making that work will show other developers that WP might be a financial goldmine waiting for them.

In essence? Spending $100 million on marketing is not going to cut it. It needs to be spent on the eco system that will allow your customer to do what they want with your product. Only then will you be making progress.

2012 – the year the story died and life took over

Picture courtesy of Google Streetview

I am a story teller. I love to tell stories and I explain lots of things through simple stories when I speak in front of audiences. I believe in brands, organizations, people and things that tell stories. I really do. But big changes are ahead. And those changes are going to hit using the story for your marketing more than anything else.

Why? Marketing stories are usually great constructed tales that involve product, emotion and something that makes them almost personal. Something that allowed the masses to relate to them in one way or another. And as a marketeer you could bring that story to your audience where they were in their masses. So, you would determine your target audience, pick a place where they were most likely to see you and you would tell/display your story there. Nice. But not good enough in 2012.

Will stories not work in 2012? Of course they will. Will you not reach that audience anymore? Of course you will. But much more effective ways are coming. And they are coming soon. What can be more effective? Telling the story on a direct and personal level. Tailoring it to the interests and enthusiasm of the individual in your audience, that will connect them to you more and give something back to them. Whether in connections, in experience, in exclusivity or in something that touches their personal interests. As social media are becoming more and more integrated into everything we do, the reach of the general story becomes smaller and smaller. However, the personal story is getting bigger and bigger. And as people are connected to their niche interests, their valuation of what you give them will reach many in their niche community. Impact changes. And as a brand/organization, you need to determine what your next move is going to be. Are you going to be sponsoring the next X thousand people event for €100.000? Or are you going to be splitting up the budget to do separate events that touch your audience directly and allow them to share your awesomeness with their networks? Because you can. You can make it far more interesting than a huge event can be. And you will make a better conversion.

2012 will see new technology to make this even easier. Google+ already launched group hangouts in December. Video meetings by several people, or even several locations, that can be watched live by your audience, but can also be recorded and published on YouTube. As social networks integrate more and more with all our communications, it will be easier to stay in touch with everyone and everything. But more conscious personal filtering by your audience (new tools are released every day) makes sure that if you are not SUPER relevant, they will not notice you. They won’t tune out of your story, they will never have seen it in the first place.

So, for 2012, make this new years’ resolution: I will be personal, relevant and I will reach my audience on an individual level, to have the biggest impact I can ever have.

Have a great year!

Paris, LeWeb, Startupbus, friends and more

I am just coming out of an amazing week. It all started with the launch party for StartupBus Europe in Amsterdam. It was a great turnout and people were excited. Everyone was looking forward to a great trip, some big challenges and very little sleep. How right they were. Over three days of StartupBus we travelled 2700km from Amsterdam to an evening in Copenhagen, then to a lunch in Berlin, breakfast in Zurich and pitching over drinks in Paris. I will write much more about this in later posts. For now, I just want to thank Softlayer and Twilio for sponsoring the bus, Atlassian for their Amsterdam office and Startupbootcamp for sponsoring our parties. And of course thanks to Seedcamp for allowing us to pitch at their party and putting up a great prize for the winners.
Check startupbus.com/europe for more.

Then it was on to LeWeb. I love LeWeb. I have had people come up to me and ask me wether it is worth the ticket price. And again I have to say “yes”. The people that are their and the opportunities to meet new people are incredible. Together with Stephanie Booth and Frédéric de Villamil I was responsible for the selection of the official LeWeb bloggers this year. And I loved it. The team is fantastic and the official bloggers are a great bunch. During LeWeb I have seen great content, met great people and have made some great appointments for the near future. I am looking forward to some exciting steps.

More than anything else, last week was a week of friends. Meeting new friend and catching up with old friends. I love how the names of the StartupBus registration list have turned into what will possibly be live long friends. For the single reason that we have gone through an experience that nobody else has. It has created some great friendships. But I have also met a lot of other new people. At LeWeb, at a Sandbox dinner and at parties and clubs. I am looking to getting to know them better as online time progresses.

I am happy about the past week. I have not slept much and have seen all I might have wanted at LeWeb. But I am happy, because people say that the StartupBus Europe trip has been amazing for them. Because I have had people walk up to me during LeWeb to tell me how StartupBus Europe has inspired them. And because I have been asked to help inspire others to chase their dreams and build their startups. And that is what I am in it for. To inspire people and to help them reach their dreams.

Meet StartupBus Europe!

Yes, we are getting ready to leave. On Sunday morning, StartupBus Europe will hit the road and we will not stop until we have launched some great startups. And you can be part of the experience.

To start off, Startupbootcamp and Atlassian are sponsoring the launch party in Amsterdam on Saturday the 3rd of December. If you are in Amsterdam, register tonight to be part of the first StartupBus Europe party.

On Sunday morning everyone is welcome to wave us goodbye as we board the bus in front of the Hotel Victoria in Amsterdam. (Across from Central station.) No reservations are needed. 😉

On Sunday night Startupbootcamp will be hosting us in Copenhagen. We will have drinks, a pitch competition and plenty of time to network with fellow entrepreneurs. Register here!

On Monday afternoon Startupbootcamp will be hosting a startup lunch for us in Berlin around 2pm. Details will come shortly and so will the possibility to register. More pitching and more competition.

On Tuesday morning we will be welcomed to Google’s European headquarters in Zurich for breakfast, a tour and more pitching competitions. If you want to be part of this, please register quickly as the number of places is limited. But it will be a great experience.

If you are at LeWeb, StartupBus Europe will be there as well. You can meet us at the conference, but you can also meet us at the bus. We can show you around and your can meet our startups, get demo’s or offer your investment money to your favorite startup. FInd us at LeWeb!

Microsoft helps you jailbreak your WP7 phone

Apple’s iOS is as closed an operating system as they come. Before anything can be installed on the iPhone, it has to be checked by Apple. Android has gone the other way. You can install almost everything you want to by changing a setting on your phone. This allows you to download packages from anywhere and install them on your phone. The difference between these approaches also determines the safety of the system. But we all want to do exactly those things that we are not allowed to. And that is how jailbreaks came along. To secretly activate panorama mode on your iPhone 4 with iOS5 for instance.

Microsoft has taken another approach. Just like Apple and Google, Microsoft asks you $99 to become an official developer. Like the others, Microsoft only allows official developers to offer apps in the market. However, unlike the others, Microsoft also offers a way around it. For $9 you can get ChevronWP7 labs. That will allow you to unlock your Windows Phone to run your own code on it, or to run the code of others. You can write code and you can share it. You cannot sell it through the market. But it will allow you to move forward and test the waters.

Find out more at http://www.chevronwp7.com/
(Image pulled from the ChevronWP7 homepage)